What is happening to our Politics? Youth have become a class and Jacinda is its champion

By   /   September 15, 2017  /   32 Comments

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…what van Beynen has stumbled upon in his tour is a basic truth from the generational backlash of the 30 year neoliberal experiment. 

‘Youth’ is no longer an age. It is a class.

Fuck. Me.

I never thought I would ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever agree with anything that Martin van Beynen wrote. He’s to the right of Caligula and manages to enrage me on almost every topic he has ever expressed an opinion on, but his latest column shows an insight, wisdom and begrudging self-awareness that is touching, immediately forgiving and gracious.

You have to read the whole thing…

In a recent interview Prime Minister Bill English was talking about his beliefs and opinions and said sometimes the debate shifted and you had to move along with it.

As the Kingswood Election Tour winds its way up the North Island – as I write we are on our tenth day of the road trip tuning in to regular folks – it strikes me that something has indeed shifted in New Zealand.

It has obviously been happening for quite a while but sometimes these subterranean societal shifts are hard to detect, especially by people like me who are being left behind.

As we approach the closely fought election in which the race is between somebody about my age and someone exactly 22 years younger than me, it’s become clearer that New Zealand is indeed ready to cross over into something new.

That’s why I think Jacinda Ardern is going to win the election or at least get more of the party vote than National.

And even if I am wrong about that, the ground has still shifted and what she represents is in the ascendant. If not this time, it will be the next.

I think Bill English knows that and probably realises that if he wins and doesn’t move with the spirit of the times, he will just do one term and then be history.

In some ways English and Ardern are very similar despite their ages and backgrounds.

Essentially both are practical intellectuals who genuinely care about achieving a better standard of living for all New Zealanders.

Unfortunately for English, John Key gifted him a poisoned chalice called “three in a row, time to go”.

But the problem for English goes much deeper and it boils down to being yesterday’s man.

Believe me I know all about this and have been fighting it for a long time. I have seen yesterday’s men and women a lot on this Kingswood tour and it’s easy to see myself in them.

Ardern does not represent the dawning of a new age because these shifts are incremental, complex and slow.

However, her great luck as a politician is the fact she has burst on the scene at a tipping point. The fact she is likeable, smart and has a bit of star quality also helps of course but it is the shift she represents that is important.

What she stands for is a different sort of New Zealand.

Under her, we can see the country becoming less male orientated, more diverse and tolerant (ironically she stands for less immigration), more open to changes like the legalisation of cannabis and euthanasia and less blaming of the poor and dysfunctional. Ardern stands for Māori language and redistributing money from the financially comfortable to the battlers and the losers.

She stands for a New Zealand that some will see as painfully politically correct and others will regard as less derogatory or patronising of people traditionally seen as different.

In other words, a country that is more Scandinavian than American or Australian.

The shift she represents is obviously generational. She gets student debt and the difficulty of buying a house.

She’s more sensitive to mental health problems and the issues youth face in finding their way. She’s prepared to make some economic sacrifices to do New Zealand’s bit for fighting climate change. On the divide between rural and urban she’s in the latter camp, where, fortunately for her, all the votes are.

English is probably also tuned in to these issues but that’s not the point. His brand has too much baggage from old New Zealand.

Regular folks reading this might think I have gone mad and that’s possible. The road does strange things to the head.

But the shift has been on the cards for a long time and although I’ve seen it coming I didn’t expect this election to crystallise the new mood so powerfully.

Perhaps the strongest historical parallel to the current situation is the rejection of Muldoonism in 1984 and the subsequent dismantling of the financial foundation of New Zealand society.

In some ways the consequences were disastrous but David Lange stood for a changing of the guard in the same way Ardern does.

People we talk to on this tour speak nostalgically of Helen Clark and see Ardern carrying on her legacy.

But Ardern is no throwback to the good old Clark days.

She represents something new and very much of the future. It could all end in tears but these shifts are unstoppable.

The latest poll, as I write, shows Labour about 10 points behind National. I suspect it is wrong and that Labour will do much better.

What would be tragic for Ardern is having to form a government with New Zealand First, the absolute embodiment of the old order.

In some ways I feel sorry for Bill English who has made a much better fist of moving with the times than many of his generation.

But when your face no longer fits not much can be done.

So I’m picking a Labour party vote victory and God only knows what will follow.

…what van Beynen has stumbled upon in his tour is a basic truth from the generational backlash of the 30 year neoliberal experiment.

‘Youth’ is no longer an age. It is a class.

New Zealanders younger than 45 were the first user pays generation. The cradle to the grave life subsidisation boomers had enjoyed from Government’s haunted by the First and Second World Wars were replaced by neoliberal acolytes  who saw egalitarianism and equality as barriers to unfettered corporate wealth.

Those under 45 have been crucified by free market debt to try and gain the same level of agency boomers enjoyed. The price of citizenship for Millennials  and Gen Xers  was a user pays one and many have not been able to afford the entry fee.

Locked out of home ownership, locked out of social mobility through education, numerically locked out of democratic muscle, Millennials and Gen Xers have been ignored and relegated to impotence.

As the planet rapidly cooks due to climate change, the generational urgency, frustration and anger of living as half citizens in a country that once boasted its egalitarianism is like being forced to share Christmas Dinner with your bully.

Millennials and Gen Xers are now a class, economically disadvantaged and stunted by a malnutrition of the State.

The legacy of student debt, low wages, high food prices, decrepit public infrastructure, astronomical house prices and deeply flawed urban planning has reset entire generations into a shared class and in Jacinda they see someone who understands that reality.

The danger for Jacinda is that she is tapping deeply into people’s real lived class experiences and if they don’t see their quality of life and agency expand, they will turn bitter with rage.

There will be no putting this generational Genie back in any bottle.

“Let’s do this” is what Jacinda will cry out.

“Or else” will be the reply.

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32 Comments

  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    “The cradle to the grave life subsidisation boomers had enjoyed from Government’s haunted by the First and Second World Wars were replaced by neoliberal acolytes who saw egalitarianism and equality as barriers to unfettered corporate wealth. Those under 45 have been crucified by free market debt to try and gain the same level of agency boomers enjoyed.”

    Yep this is the truth Martyn,

    When in the 1960s’ I had a trade under my belt and had come back to Napier from working on Two power schemes the Tongariro and Manapouri, I was money rich with four thousand dollars, and could buy two houses in Napier or five acres on a hill looking over the beach.

    Sections on the Taupo beach front then were selling for less then $100 dollars too.

    Most did not think this freedom to choose cheap homes or sections would end becase nobody was then taught to be greedy and speculate, as it wasn’t in our genes as we were not taught to think that way.

    Speculators came during the rogernomics era when I was in Canada and when I returned it was a shockto see what had happend so now I at 73 lament for the kids of the future wont have what I was given a chance to buy if I wanted then.

    In 1974 I bought a house in Napier for $23 000.

    Quite a lift in prices from 1966 prices at $4000, but still cheap by todays silly prices.

    Somethings got to give.

  2. CLEANGREEN says:

    “The cradle to the grave life subsidisation boomers had enjoyed from Government’s haunted by the First and Second World Wars were replaced by neoliberal acolytes who saw egalitarianism and equality as barriers to unfettered corporate wealth. Those under 45 have been crucified by free market debt to try and gain the same level of agency boomers enjoyed.”

    Yep this is the truth Martyn,

    When in the 1960s’ I had a trade under my belt and had come back to Napier from working on Two power schemes the Tongariro and Manapouri, I was money rich with four thousand dollars, and could buy two houses in Napier or five acres on a hill looking over the beach.

    Sections on the Taupo beach front then were selling for less then $100 dollars too.

    Most did not think this freedom to choose cheap homes or sections would end becase nobody was then taught to be greedy and speculate, as it wasn’t in our genes as we were not taught to think that way.

    Speculators came during the rogernomics era when I was in Canada and when I returned it was a shockto see what had happend so now I at 73 lament for the kids of the future wont have what I was given a chance to buy if I wanted then.

    In 1974 I bought a house in Napier for $23 000.

    Quite a lift in prices from 1966 prices at $4000, but still cheap by todays silly prices.

    Somethings got to give.

  3. WILD KATIPO says:

    … ” As the planet rapidly cooks due to climate change, the generational urgency, frustration and anger of living as half citizens in a country that once boasted its egalitarianism is like being forced to share Christmas Dinner with your bully.

    The legacy of student debt, low wages, high food prices, decrepit public infrastructure, astronomical house prices and deeply flawed urban planning has reset entire generations into a shared class and in Jacinda they see someone who understands that reality.

    The danger for Jacinda is that she is tapping deeply into people’s real lived class experiences and if they don’t see their quality of life and agency expand, they will turn bitter with rage ” …

    Exactly.

    And today my son and I voted Labour in a strong Labour seat , and party voted Green. First time for me to vote Green , and I’m glad I did. And my nephew ( 19 ) whose dad is a tribal Nat supporter, will more than likely vote Labour , as will his brother , … the both of them have a social conscience.

    If people do not realize that this new generation coming through are not going to stand by idly and be the work slaves and modern day peasants for a privileged landed gentry composed of baby boomers who , like the generation above me ,… had cradle to grave state benefits ,… then there will be trouble.

    But we can head off that trouble by voting for those that are visionary.

    And I believe ,… that both Labour and the Greens have sufficient numbers of such visionary’s to prevent and curtail such radical measures that , … until this point in time, … this country has never had the misfortune to have had to endure…

    The Wolf Tones-You’ll Never Beat the Irish – YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYnrjhrkt-0

  4. Danyl Strype says:

    One thing that has glued the status quo in place has been the clever use of a false choice, between carrying on with financialization and austerity, or going “backwards” to the NZ of the 1970s, a NZ that was much more egalitarian (see the doco ‘In a Land of Plenty’), but also much more conformist and authoritarian (eg Muldoon’s dawn raids and red squads). Gen Xers like Bomber and myself have been playing the long game for decades now, consistently pointing out that there are third options (and fourth and fifth etc), and encouraging people to experiment in their communities, in preparation for taking the power back. It’s incredibly satisfying to see defenders of the status quo admit that we have been effective, and even if the corporatists manage to cling to power in this election, their time is running out.

  5. Mike the Lefty says:

    Not just the youth, my elderly mother who recently turned 90 proudly told me yesterday that she had advance voted for Labour “because i like Jacinda Adern”

    • Red Buzzard says:

      +100…agreed NOT just the youth vote…in fact many youth are NOT enrolled to vote

      ‘With polling day fast approaching, nearly a quarter of a million younger voters are yet to enrol, according to figures from the Electoral Commission’.

      http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/338383/nearly-250-000-young-kiwis-yet-to-enrol

      “As of 23 August, 246,498 people aged 18-29 had not yet enrolled – 30 percent of the almost 800,000 eligible voters in that age group.

      The figures are in stark contrast to the over-70s, where 97 percent of the 483,270 have enrolled….

  6. Interesting….

    van Beynen seems to have made points similar to mine made a couple of days ago, and published yesterday;

    “…there’s more to it than simply attacking Labour through a perceived weakness in their taxation policy.

    Labour is attempting to shift New Zealand away from a low-taxation/minimalist government, and return the country to the fully-funded social services we all once enjoyed.

    Remember free prescriptions? Yes indeed. Prior to 1986, prescribed medicine was free.

    National’s growing concern is not that Labour will introduce new (or higher) taxes.

    Their worry is that New Zealanders will like what their taxes can buy; free tertiary education. Lower medical costs. Cheaper housing. New, re-vitalised social services such as nurses in schools.

    Up until now, the Cult of Individualism had it’s allure. But it also has it’s nastier down-side.

    If New Zealanders get a taste for a Scandinavian-style of taxation and social services, that would be the death-knell for neo-liberalism. When Jacinda Ardern recently agreed with Jim Bolger that neo-liberalism had failed – the Right noticed.

    […]

    This election is not simply between the National-led block vs the Labour-led bloc – this is the battle for the future of our country; the soul of our people.

    This moment is New Zealand’s cross-road.

  7. Marc says:

    It started overseas:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/magazine/camila-vallejo-the-worlds-most-glamorous-revolutionary.html?mcubz=0

    One young Chilean revolutionary set the pace and agenda, and has since, through the Socialist Union excited and motivated Jacinda the Ardern, so move ahead, move ahead, fight and push for it, the improvement of lives in NZ Aoteaora NOW.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Here here Mark, I agree with this beginning of our reserection of our democracy that was earlier fight for as our own back during the end of ‘child slavery, and the beginning of the industrial era but was swiftly sacked by greedy corporastes duuring the 1980’s.

  8. CLEANGREEN says:

    Here here Mark,

    I agree with this beginning of our ‘reserection’ of our democracy that was earlier fought for, as our own back during the end of ‘child slavery’, and the beginning of the industrial era but was swiftly sacked by greedy corporates sadly during the 1980’s.

  9. dave brown says:

    Youth are heterogeneous. Not a class.
    A majority will vote Labour suggesting they are social liberals who believe in social equality.
    A minority will vote National suggesting they are the beneficiaries of NACTs policies.
    200,000 approx are not registered to vote probably because they are cynical about change or accepting of the status quo.

    So how can youth be a class?

    Baby boomers are heterogeneous, not a class.
    A majority will vote National probably because they are conservatives that benefited from NACTs policies in business and property speculation.
    A minority are social liberals probably long-time Labour supporters.
    There is also a minority that does not vote.

    So how can a baby boomer class oppress the millennial class?

    Unless class means ‘go back to class’.

    Since a majority of youth and a minority of baby boomers will vote Labour for social liberal reasons, neither are likely to have benefited from neo-liberal policies.
    A minority of both will not vote.

    Therefore youth and baby boomers have more in common than what separates them. Because what unites them is much more important than what separates them.

    Despite big differences in age, they are likely to be g/parents AND their children because political affiliation is learned like everything else.
    The majority of millennials who now vote Labour will probably have g/parents who vote Labour or know NZ history and understand the original class origins of both parties.
    Those who vote NACT will have NACT g/parents and/or subscribe to liberarian notions of individual freedom.

    This reflects the history of the two main parties that originated as parties aligned to the two main classes.
    These two main classes have always existed in colonial NZ, remain today, and will continue until such time as differences in wealth disappear.
    Moreover, those differences in wealth will remain until the underlying class relations between worker and capitalist that determines how the value created by workers is divided into wages, profits and rent, disappears.
    And that is why class struggle as the the motor of history has its roots in the struggle by the working class, young and old, to unite and overthrow the class that exploits and oppresses them.

    • LOSTRELIC says:

      The term “class” represents an arbitrary boundary delineated by the one using it; class is an imaginary concept, not real.

      The main difference is that the e.g. proletariat arguably have more in common generally than e.g. “youth” / “boomers”, and has fewer outliers/is more cohesive.

      In other words, yes “youth” can be a class, but it’s harder to argue – Zuckerberg is a millennial, and he wouldn’t have too much difficulty as a first home buyer in NZ!

      • dave brown says:

        LostRelic. You seem to have missed the point which is that the term ‘generation’ is purely descriptive whereas ‘social class’ always refers to an actual social position, either as ‘revenue classes’ resulting from the distribution of income, or ‘productive classes’, that is social relations of production.
        You seem to agree as you allow that the proletariat is a real and not imaginary concept.
        But lapsing into ‘youth’ as a class is purely imaginary.
        Unless you use ‘class’ as a promiscuous abstraction – classy.

        • LOSTRELIC says:

          I don’t think you understood my post.

          I did not say that proletariat is real. I said that “class is an imaginary concept, not real”. If proletariat is a class and class is not real, how can I say that proletariat is real?

          “Unless you use ‘class’ as a promiscuous abstraction – classy.”
          Class *is* an abstraction – Marxian analysis is not the only lense through which a person can understand social relations!!!!

    • Nicke says:

      The number of people who vote from an altruistic perspective is greater than you allow.

      During the “Youth Debate” questions were asked to provide statistcal comparison on how the young people felt about rent rates and free tertiary. But when asked, everone answered that they cared about homelessness, mental health and environmental issues. They were thinking of others, not themselves.

      We don’t all vote our own hip pocket. In fact I wonder how many do.

    • Nicke says:

      The number of people who vote from an altruistic perspective is greater than you allow.

      During the “Youth Debate” questions were asked to provide statistcal comparison on how the young people felt about rent rates and free tertiary. But when asked, everone answered that they cared about homelessness, mental health and environmental issues. They were thinking of others, not themselves.

      We don’t all vote our own hip pocket. In fact I wonder how many do.

    • Red Buzzard says:

      +100 DAVE BROWN…to argue “youth is a class” is nonsensical imo.

      maybe they operate within a certain cultural and demographic characteristics … certainly not “class” in the Marxist sense of class

      In Marxist theory, the capitalist stage of production consists of two main classes: the bourgeoisie, the capitalists who own the means of production, and the much larger proletariat (or ‘working class’) who must sell their own labour power (See also: wage labour).
      Marxian class theory – Wikipedia

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxian_class_theory

  10. Zack Brando says:

    I saw a NZ political news article titled ‘Changing of the Guard’ and thought; ‘pretty much’! Some of the public are clearly desperate for a change in government, yet the very troubles which are leading them to vote are bring ignored by Jacinda. Let’s examine:

    Housing: Let’s NOT tax capital gains in our elected term.
    Tax: Let’s NOT make meaningful reforms
    Cannabis: Let’s NOT legalize or decriminalize
    Prison Population: Let’s NOT have a plan
    Minimum Wage: Let’s NOT increase it meaningfully
    Housing: Let’s NOT consider $450,000+ affordable
    etc, etc

    To add insult to injury Jacinda has brought herself a house for just under 1 million dollars, clearly not the actions of a person expecting to increase housing affordability any time some. If elected as Prime Minister she’ll be able to live at Premier House, therefore making her recent purchase quite speculative?

    So congratulations New Zealand you’re well on the way to the ‘changing the guard’.

  11. michelle says:

    I see many of the people in my age group are selfishly voting for themselves sad indeed instead of thinking about the betterment of our whole country selfish bastards

  12. michelle says:

    I forgot to say it seems patriarchy is still very much alive in our country the older men (selfish bastards) are voting for the nasty gnats after they got looked after by generous social policy and a fairer welfare state

    • Nicke says:

      Maybe. And maybe not.
      People may think they are voting “stability”, not their own gain.

      They may be wrong, but not necessarily venal or evil.

      • Michelle says:

        are they blind or deaf Nicke or do they have selective hearing. billshert couldn’t even keep a straight face when he mentioned the word social justice on TV why because he is trying to pretend he cares when he doesn’t

  13. Siobhan says:

    One third of under 30s are not enrolled so far, and last election only 62 percent of under 30s who enrolled actually cast their vote.
    I’d love to see that figure move, but we’ll see.
    The issue is, we urgently need civics in schools.
    Not just to teach people how/why to vote, but to explain that ‘Tax’ is not a dirty word.
    It really is a shame that Labour can’t bring themselves to frame Taxes as a vital tool for a Fair, Equal and Functional society.

  14. tony says:

    funnily enough I heard 3 students talking about voting, and all 3 were voting National. I know two of their families from league, but would suggest they are far more influenced by family and class, than some fictional generational movement

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Aye,… but unless we want to degrade into third world status, we will ,… eventually have to look at how our society is going and how it is heading.

      And under the current system?

      We are fast devolving.

      And that’s not good for the poor , neither is it good for the middle tiers, nor , … in the end ,… is it even good for the long term health of the wealthy,…

      Ultimately ,… all lose out.

      All it takes is another severe downturn by the oligarchs and even the ‘ wealthy’ are on their knees. It doesn’t take a lot .

      Trust me . I met security guards working for minimum wages that were once millionaires before 2008.

  15. Pete says:

    The most important class for them to be in is the voting class.

    Not the Old Enough to Vote Class, the Actually Getting Out and Voting Class.


 
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